Scenes from a Mixtape
I slide the mixtape into the stereo and press play. She takes off her low-cut socks and throws them at me, humming along to the Gin Blossoms. The loneliness leaks from me in slow drips until it disappears.
She thinks I'm crazy and she loves me. Two of the same and we're poisoning each other, unhealthy decomposition losing its heartbeat. Talking, together, copulating, her arms circling a torso, any waistline, but now it's mine. Anyone would do, as long as they're bent/broken, so she and I continue on borrowed time. And love comes in waves, small packages, coffins, a gesture, the way she mixes her fingers into mine when she grabs for my hand. I know her well. Sweet when tongues taste her, she's reminiscent of an old flower, the small yellow blossoms mothers teach children to behead and suck from the bottom, all the honeysuckle, a strange taste. There must be a mathematical theory for her body, from the curve of her ass up to her perfect neck—her lips that are shamans when she speaks in the low-pitched rasp that soothes and shakes everything. And to be there as she exists, to hear her sing in the shower, to watch her stir sugar into her coffee. To feel tense, waiting for her to yell over:
"Your goddamn typing is driving me crazy!"
And I keep pounding intricate diagonals of confessional bullshit (c-o-n-f-e-s-s-i-o-n-a-l SPACE b-u-l-l-s-h-i-t). Up from the typewriter at the kitchen table, spying her form hanging in the doorframe of the bathroom, pouring drain cleaner into the sink. Long looks across the room—we're fifteen feet apart and we miss each other. We're killing each other. She's walking to the bed. I'm still typing. "New Day Rising" kicks in quiet on the stereo—a barely audible gurgling, complete with tape hissssss. I count one thousand and twenty-six words and I've got nothing more to say, but I don't want to stop. I type ellipses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . until she calls over to me.
"Your goddamn typing is driving me crazy!"
The tape pops and the tape's over, a loss of lo-fi noise, the songs slept to in younger years, the songs of the local college radio, the alternative, the rock and grunge and post-rock and post-grunge—flipping the cassette over and readying it for side two—play—and the buzzing starts, crackling from the dust and age of the carbon. I remember the tape, I remember not having the money for a proper blank one, so it reads as a collection of Christmas traditionals erased over, small wads of paper still jammed in the top to fool the tape deck 'record' button.
"Today is the greatest day I've ever known, can't wait for tomorrooooow . . ."
She remembers this song, she sings along. I leave the typewriter for her, I abandon and slither under the covers. We sing the song together.
She's a knife cutting into me, in a way I won't comprehend until the pain is no longer there. Long stretches of nothingness with her head on my chest, waiting for the sun to rise. Early: she doesn't inhale, she lets air come to her. She stands on the heels of her feet, leaning into it, smiling with her eyes closed as if waking up is an endless pit into which she falls. She lets her chest extend out and she yaaaaaaaaaawns and falls back to the mattress.
"Do you think McDonald's is still serving breakfast?"
The clock reads seven twenty-four a.m.
"Is it really that early?"
Seven twenty-five a.m.
"I'm going back to sleep."
It goes wrong somewhere deep and patterned, the way she would run her thumb along the paper of a thick book she was thinking of buying as we stood in the downtown bookstore, the pages fluttering in a blow. She and I, we had built swift and perfect on the downhill and were imploding like a dying sun with nothing more than a sliver of why it had all started. It becomes open range barbwire and we never stop running, and when a love like that catches your skin, it shreds you and you bleed out right there, exactly where you fall. We feel our timeline freefall: I'm ordered to get a job; she stares in disgust at the typewriter; I spend more time at the labor office. The air between us is white noise, bottoming out with frost as a blanket. We're numb. And one night Hüsker Dü kicks in on the tape deck and we're sitting on opposite sides of the apartment—not out of anger, simply necessity. Neither of us sings along, and she stops telling me my goddamn typing is driving her crazy.
Days pass and I miss them, right past me, forgetting the clock, forgetting the shades are down. I hardly sleep, the dreams aren't pleasant. I sit at the edge of the mattress most nights; she sleeps through the sound of creaking boxsprings. We keep on, the borrowed time decays. And one day while I'm downtown pawning videos and selling blood for rent money, she realizes we're tearing each other apart with our separate young madnesses, and there's no disappearing act like the one that leaves me wondering how she took all her things in one trip. We fall from orbit and burn up on reentry. She leaves, things devolve, become simpler. And the loneliness crawls back inside my stomach and drills into my spine. It stays. She's found a new waistline for her arms.
And I make a new mixtape.
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